Off the Battlefield Part 1


"Try it again!"

Colonel Michael Grey cycled Evil Eye's right arm through a range of motion test, and was rewarded by a barrage of curses. Michael visualized his Thug's paint blistering under the stream of epithets, as Elaine dug back in to make yet another adjustment. Something still wasn't right with how the actuators were interacting; the two of them had been fiddling with it for most of the morning, and Elaine Drew, the tomboyish redhead who had inherited her position as Michael's tech from her father, was displaying her temper.

Michael reflected a bit while she worked. The Greys were descended from old Davion nobility, a landed Mechwarrior family. The Drews and Wests had been traditional retainers then, and they still served in the Shadows in spite of all the changes over the years. It was a last remaining vestige of the old family tradition...and he snapped out of his reverie as a knock came on his neurohelmet.

"Hey, wake up in there!" Elaine was grinning at him; she had raised up her work lift and tapped him with a spanner. "I figured it out, it wasn't the actuators themselves but the myomer between. That jerk we kept getting was slack being taken up. I just put a good crank on it, try it now."

Michael complied, and the arm functioned smoothly. He cut over to the targeting computer and did a tracking check, watching carefully for any discrepancy. The right arm ERPPC followed the targeting reticle perfectly. He sighed. "Finally."

Elaine laughed as she climbed down off the lift. "That's what you get for going head-on with a Burrock. You're lucky the whole arm wasn't blown off! I swear, as hard as I work on this thing and you keep bringing it back all shot to..."

Elaine had bent over to gather her tools as she carried on her mock tirade, and Michael reached down with a big metal hand and gave her a gentle goose. She yelped and jumped, then gave him that look...the one that said she'd "get" him later. Michael just grinned and waved, then shut down Evil Eye for a rest. Now that his Mech was fixed, he had other matters to attend to before "dealing" with Elaine privately that evening.

Michael stuffed down a quick lunch in the Overlord's galley, where the food was up to expectations. "Nothing feeds morale like food," was one of the lessons that Michael had learned early. So like any good CO, Michael never told the cooks when he might show up; that forced them to keep high standards in case he or other VIP's dropped in. That in turn was good for the whole unit.

Once he was done eating and back in his office, Michael sat down for the part of his job he hated more than nearly anything else: a disciplinary review. The only thing Michael loathed more than having to punish his men was having to bury them, but both were unfortunate parts of being the CO. He put on his face of death, then called in the case. He studied the two reported Shadows as they filed in to stand in field dress uniform before him, along with Jessica and two stone-faced riflemen as guards.

Both of the troublemakers were Mechwarriors. That bothered Michael, grating on his memories of when being a Mechwarrior was a form of knighthood. Worse, the taller and older one was an officer, a First Leutnant in the second battalion. He wore a look that seemed almost arrogant, as if wondering why HE was on the carpet over this petty issue. Michael knew the man well, a Spheroid who had an "old school" reputation for discipline, hence why he was an officer in the first place. The other was one of his subordinates; Michael recognized the young Star Adder bondsman, blown out of his Hunchback IIC on Black Earth by Michael's command lance. The boy looked like he was expecting to be shot; given what Michael knew of martial discipline among the Clans, he understood the lad's fears entirely.

Michael didn't take his eyes off the men as he spoke to Jessica. "Leutnant-Colonel, what's the story about these two gentlemen?" Jessica answered in a clipped voice; were it up to her, Michael knew, these two would probably have already been thrown out the airlock. "First Leutnant Engels stated that he issued an order to Leutnant Linn, which was disobeyed..."

"Is that true?" Michael looked the young bondsman right in the eyes as he interrupted Jessica. The boy looked like he was going to die from fright for a moment, but swallowed and spoke. ", yes sir." Michael smiled slightly. "Aff will do." He looked at Jessica. "What was the order?"

Gott in Himmel, Michael thought to himself. If eyes were lasers, Jessica would have burned this First Leutnant to bones by now. "To scrub his Mech."

Michael's expression didn't change, but the temperature of the room seemed to drop twenty degrees. There was a long pause before he spoke, very evenly, making sure he had heard correctly. "TO SCRUB HIS MECH?"


Michael sat back in the chair, looking at the two men, wondering now if maybe he SHOULD throw the First Leutnant out the airlock. The Shadows didn't treat bondsmen like that, plain and simple. "Lieber Gott," he muttered to no one in particular. "What's the other part of the charges?"

Jessica couldn't hide her smile. "After Leutnant Linn refused the order, it seems that First Leutnant Engels tried to enforce the order physically. Both men are charged with assault, but self-defense on Leutnant Linn's part is fairly clear, quiaff?" Michael kept his chuckle to himself; Jessica had enjoyed seeing a Clanner kick an arrogant Spheroid's arse. Now he understood why she was so angry.

Michael paused a moment, clasping his hands in thought. Then he sat back and looked at the two warriors. "So, what we have here then is a double conflict. No honorable warrior refuses orders," he looked hard at Leutnant Linn, "but no honorable officer should be trying to humiliate his subordinates." He rose and walked around the desk, staring straight into the First Leutnant's face for a long time before continuing. "I think what we need here is a lesson," Michael finally said. "A lesson in humility. Because warriors, when called to duty, should have all other issues of pride set aside."

Michael returned to his seat, stared the two men down some more, then looked at Jessica decisively. "Until we leave Galatea, these two will work in the MacGyver's galley, serving the technicians who make our warriors' missions possible." Jessica almost cringed herself; Michael could imagine what was going through her pretty Falcon head. Warriors serving technicians? Then he smiled slightly, and delivered the real punchline. "And see to it that the First Leutnant here, is placed subordinate to Leutnant Linn during their galley stint."

The look on Engels' face, the arrogant bastard who thought he could haze a bondsman, was nearly as priceless as the shock, then the evil smile that played across Jessica's lips. "Seyla."

And after they filed out, Michael realized that he had changed his mind about disciplinary review. He had actually enjoyed that. He sat back with a smile of satisfaction, glanced at his watch, and his smile changed to a grin, betraying a different mood.

It was time to meet Elaine.